The Rev. Samuel (Sam) Om is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving as director of educational resource development for the Methodist Mission in Cambodia, based in Phnom Penh.
The Methodist Mission in Cambodia grew over a dozen years to more than 140 congregations in 10 provinces in 2013. A major challenge is the need for educational materials and training events in the local language. Another is to develop churches in the northeast where there is no Methodist presence. The Methodist Mission in Cambodia is a partnership of United Methodists, Korean Methodists, Singaporean Methodists, and the World Federation of Chinese Methodists.
Sam Om is an elder of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and a US citizen; he was born in Cambodia and lived there until his family fled in 1979 to escape the spillover into their country of the war in Vietnam. After months in a camp in Thailand, Sam and his family were accepted by the US as immigrants and spent another six months in the Philippines before coming to the US.
His faith journey and call to mission is dramatic and moving. He was born into a devote Buddhist family—Buddhism being the dominant faith in Cambodia. The whole country was turned upside down by the takeover of the Communist Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot in 1975, which was in turn ousted by a North Vietnam communist invasion. The family fled to Thailand where in a refugee camp, his sister went to a church and brought him a Bible. He found the thin paper of the book handy for rolling cigarettes but would occasionally read a passage. He read that “God so loved the world that he sent his only son to die so you may have eternal life.” He went to church to check out that promise but remembers the experience meeting “with no success.”
In the Philippines, waiting to come to the US, he was asked to translate for church services and this time his encounter with the Bible was successful. He was baptized and received Christ on February 1, 1981. Once in the US, Sam enrolled in Nyack Bible College, New York, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987. He then pastored a Cambodian evangelical congregation in Garden Grove, California and in 1992 relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina to work in a United Methodist ministry. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts in 2002, was ordained an elder in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference in 2007, and for the next seven years was senior pastor of the multicultural St. John’s United Methodist Church in Charlotte.
In accepting a call to missionary service in Cambodia, his prayer is “to bring hope and healing” to the people. “I believe there will be no hope without healing and no healing without hope,” he says. “This can happen only in Christ and Christ alone can make this happen.…Only Christ can restore peace and harmony; only Christ can bring real love, repentance, and forgiveness.”
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